A youth pastor comrade (Jim Newberry) recently told me that he refashioned his ministry team of students around the theme of "Contribution". He said that he wanted them to find ways to Contribute to the Kingdom work of Christ, by giving spiritual input to others, or by serving in the church nursery, or by leading a game for Jr. Highers...you get the idea.
I think 'Contribution' can be a sensible unifying theme and qualification for this important group of responsive students. By "unifying theme" I mean, "What one thing unifies this mismatched bundle of kids?" and, "Where do I want to lead them?" and, "How can I honor the leadership training examples of Jesus and Paul while also honoring the individuality of these willing teens?"
'Contribution' also sets a bar or standard that qualifies a student to be a member of our ministry team. This year I asked my ministry team students to take on at least one weekly ministry responsibility. I helped to place them based on their gifts. Most students want to Contribute but they don't feel they have the permission or empowerment to do so. Some are leading peer Bible studies. Others are mentoring middle schoolers. It's all good. Now when we gather we can discuss how their ministries are going and how they can sharpen them. They are a tad bit hungrier for ministry principles since they are actually doing ministry.
Add to this idea of Contribution some recent, but not too original, thinking of mine about Serving. I am convinced that our first spiritual inroads into peoples' hearts rest in simply proving we care for them by discovering their needs and Serving them, helping them. Henri Nouwen cracks this idea open in his FANTASTIC little books The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, among others.
The next step is to translate Serve and Contribute into an approach for evangelism. I'll split here and pick this up in my next post.